Sync, Backup and Store User Folders to the Cloud with OneDrive

Update:  Almost ten years since I started using this method when it was called Skydrive, and still working great!  They're finally catching up with the new Folder Protection that moves Desktop, Documents and Pictures into OneDrive.  Better check because many found this to be Enabled by default:  Turn On or Off Folder Protection with OneDrive in Windows 10 

I also like as a secondary backup the newer Google Drive Backup which lets you choose any of your User folders to back up in real time (15gb free) but can't be sync'd via cloud to other devices like this tutorial method can do.

Technical Level : Basic

Summary
 Here's how to sync User folders across your devices to the Microsoft Cloud, leaving a hard copy on each device if you want while storing them for safe keeping in MS Servers, where you can also access them on the internet. 

Details

Keep your files backed-up and synching together across all of your devices using OneDrive built into Windows 8, 8.1 and 10 or in earlier versions of Windows OneDrive Desktop App for Windows which offers 5gb free cloud storage for each Windows Live/Hotmail/Outlook ID and sells more for cheap.

It can be as easy as dragging anything you want backed up into OneDrive folder which lives both on your HD and in the Cloud, which is the gauzy name for MS Servers. But with a few more minutes configuration you'll have your User folders stored in the cloud ready to access on the internet and sync'd to any of your devices.



After trying several methods for five years I've settled on physically moving the active User folders to the OneDrive folder with the steps in
How to Change the Location of User Folders in Windows 10

You can also place the OneDrive folder on any other HD, but be aware that if it is moved from C and you use Win7 Backup Imaging it will force the inclusion of the data drive to which Onedrive and/or User folders are moved since they are System folders. I would also in that case not move Desktop beyond C.

You can do the same on all your PC's and have one master set of files hosted and kept Sync'd this way by OneDrive, even access them from any device anywhere via the internet, share them publicly, by invitation, or link.



In using this method the only risk is if you'd delete a file or folder and have it sync on other devices before you realize you still need it. In this case the file/folder will be in each Recycle Bin. For this reason I'd uncheck Recycle Bin in CCleaner so that it is only emptied manually when you have the chance to review contents.

Alternative method using Libraries in Windows 7

If you prefer not to move the User folders into OneDrive folder, you can also copy each one there, delete the content in the C: User folder, then rightclick each User folder in Onedrive to add it to the related Library - Include a Folder - Windows 7 Forums.



If you use this Library method, keep each empty C: User folder in the Library so you can visually monitor if any files land there and simply drag them over to the Onedrive User folder. You may want to leave some files which exceed the Onedrive size limit in C: user folder so they don't cause an oversize error message.

To restore these we need to use the Restore Default Location button in each User folder Properties box. But there are now problems with Documents and Picture restoring because OneDrive also has those folders and when it merges them it complicates things.

But what always works to restore the User folder is here:   Restore Default Location of Personal Folders in Windows 10 Windows 10 User Accounts Tutorials

Back up each folder contents to desktop first just in case.

 

If you have any questions or feedback please use the Comments section below which I will monitor.

 

Forum Article Info


Last updated May 13, 2019 Views 2,839 Applies to:
Very nicely explained! I want to start doing the same thing. I also ran across this: http://www.winzip.com/win/en/features/cloud-backup.html which can be useful, and a great tip, to save on space. I could use the Cloud to keep my files safe, but since it has a limited storage I could compress the files and than upload, it's a great combination! Thanks for sharing this, very detailed steps, and very nicely explained :)

Thanks for the feedback.  I've now been using this system with all my User folders for six years without  problem.  Sometimes when I reinstall I need to change the Location tab to OneDrive again but it's become easy habit. 

Please let us know how the zip utility works for you, if it streamlines the process any, and how. 

----------------------------------
I am a volunteer and not Microsoft.

Over 100,000 helped in forums for 10 years. I don't quit for those who are polite and cooperative.

Windows MVP 2010-19
Hello Greg. Very nice article. There's no way the forum is going to allow us to communicate and work as a team. Thanks for your support and your great articles.

If I drag a folder into the onedrive folder will that folder on onedrive stay synced as I add files locally.

I wanted a total PC backup and tried to drag the C drive folder into onedrive but that didn't seem to work.

Is there a simple backup everything command, I have a 1tb onedrive.

Thanks

Unk

If I drag a folder into the onedrive folder will that folder on onedrive stay synced as I add files locally.

I wanted a total PC backup and tried to drag the C drive folder into onedrive but that didn't seem to work.

Is there a simple backup everything command, I have a 1tb onedrive.

Thanks

Unk

Sorry I didn't get the notification email of your post.  Just found it.

I'd keep your files in their User folders which always organizes things best (present projects on desktop) then root those in OneDrive so it's all sync'd in real time effortlessly.  This tutorial shows how.

If you want other files sync'd you need to drag them into OneDrive, but that takes them out of the file system, though you can right click the file in OneDrive to Create a Shortcut to drag or copy anywhere else you want it to be.

----------------------------------
I am a volunteer and not Microsoft.

Over 100,000 helped in forums for 10 years. I don't quit for those who are polite and cooperative.

Windows MVP 2010-19
At first I thought this was a new article and I was reading it.  But I see it's an older article and you have updated it somewhat which is nice.

Yes, Craig.  I just edited it again yesterday.  I actually was going to replace the screenshots with Skydrive in them but I thought it was nice to show the resilience of this method, and they still all apply except for the name. 


I think that the precursor to Skydrive was a very buggy beta app called Windows Backup & Sync which is when I first started testing it ten years ago. 

----------------------------------
I am a volunteer and not Microsoft.

Over 100,000 helped in forums for 10 years. I don't quit for those who are polite and cooperative.

Windows MVP 2010-19

Greg,

Was using your rather lengthy (in the best way) post on doing a clean Win 10 install.  REALLY the best detailed guide I've found!  Anyway, it led me to this post since I was investigating OneDrive to start really using it (perhaps).  So, I did a clean Win10 install on my laptop that had a HD crash.  Used my usual Microsoft account to set it up.  No issues and am super pleased with the instantaneous startup I now get with laptop (also went to a SSD).  So....   installed the Android OneDrive app and logged in from my phone using the same Microsoft account.  I see NO files there at all.  That may not be surprising as I have not specifically added any to the OneDrive on the laptop.  However, I would have expected to see some files from the laptop from the timeframe before the HD crashed; and I would have hoped to recover something from the OneDrive on the cloud.  I can live with all this.   And, I use this Microsoft account on 2 home laptops, both with OneDrive active.  How does OneDrive deal with that?  I realize it might normally be configured to keep the files the same on both and in the cloud unless that is specifically changed.  But, what happens when there are 2 folders/2 files of the same name (but intended to be different content) on the 2 laptops?  And finally, in the case of a clean Win10 install, does the OneDrive (cloud) see that files are no longer on the laptop and just delete them?  Would that not make it a not-so-great backup tool?  I apologize for making this so long, but I wanted to make this clear if I could.  Thanks for your posts and your obvious effort and dedication.

I mention in the tutorial to unlink OneDrive before reinstall, although that should not be necessary because reinstalling is not detected by OneDrive as deletion of files, only deleting files is.  So make sure you are signing into the correct account.  If so the files should be there unless there's a fluke.  In any case they should be in the OneDrive Recycle Bin which does not delete anything until it notifies you by email it is going to do so.  That is the safety net. 
----------------------------------
I am a volunteer and not Microsoft.

Over 100,000 helped in forums for 10 years. I don't quit for those who are polite and cooperative.

Windows MVP 2010-19